Quarterback Controversy in San Francisco

By brianpalmer

As I wrote here on Rant almost a month ago, there is a quarterback controversy in San Francisco. The only difference between then and now is that now the rest of America knows about it. After Colin Kaepernick dazzled viewers across the nation on Monday Night Football last night as the San Francisco 49ers absolutely destroyed the Chicago Bears 32-7, one of the most frequently asked questions was: Did Colin Kaepernick’s virtuoso performance in his first NFL start win him the starting job in San Francisco? The answer is yes.

In his first start, in prime time, against arguably the stingiest defense in the NFL, Kaepernick was nothing short of brilliant. Completing 70% of his passes for almost 250 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs, Kaepernick played with poise and accuracy and didn’t display any of the nerves that people would have expected. He threw a perfect deep ball to Kyle Williams early on that went for 57 yards. He found Vernon Davis in the right corner of the end zone for a score. He calmly made a veteran move to throw across his body and find Michael Crabtree in the end zone on a broken pass play. He even appeared to injure Randy Moss’s finger with one of his strong, perfectly-thrown passes…not that this is a good thing, but still. He did everything, and he did it better than Alex Smith has ever done during his tenure in San Francisco.

Between this stellar performance and the way he almost rallied the 49ers to a win last week against the St. Louis Rams after Smith went out with a concussion, there is no doubt the 49ers want to continue to have Colin Kaepernick starting games for them. Keep in mind that this has been their hope since the day they traded up to draft him in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Yes, that was before Smith resurrected his career last season and demonstrated that he does indeed have enough talent to be a decent game-managing quarterback, but Kaepernick’s performances so far—in addition to the spot usage he has been getting in games throughout this season already—indicate that Smith is not long for the 49ers as their starter.

Also, let’s remember that concussions are particularly heinous and unpredictable things. Smith might be ready to go next week, or he could be unable to play for several more weeks. Say Kaepernick leads the 49ers to victory in New Orleans next Sunday, and then in St. Louis, at home against Miami and in New England the week after that before Smith is ready again. Do you really think 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh will honestly go back to Smith if Kaepernick is able to shine in these next 4 games?

Here’s to hoping that Alex Smith recovers soon and gets back to doing what he does best. But if he doesn’t, and if Kaepernick continues to shine, we could be seeing a repeat of 2001 when New England’s Drew Bledsoe got injured, lost his starting job to Tom Brady and never got it back again.

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